In this episode I talk about getting outside your comfort zone with Street Photography. I give you my best tips for breaking into this genre and getting over your nervousness. Check out the images from when I wrote a blog post on this back in October 2016.
Transcription by www.temi.com, there may be grammatical errors.
You’re listening to the Liam Photography Podcast.
Greetings and welcome to the Liam photography podcast. I’m your host, Liam Douglas and this is episode 47 I want to take a moment to thank all of my listeners for subscribing, rating and reviewing the show in iTunes, Pandora radio.com and anywhere else that you might be listening to us. All right, so this week, today’s episode, I am recording this on Friday, November 29th, 2019. I usually release my new episodes on Thursdays, but yesterday of course was Thanksgiving here in the United States and it’s one of the few days of the year I actually get to have off from work, work full time work. So after I had dinner, uh, over at my brother and sister in law’s house, uh, with the wife, I decided to come home and veg out and watch a burn notice marathon on DVD instead. I know I’m bad, so I want to wish a belated happy Thanksgiving to all of my listeners here in the United States and I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that you took the time to actually give.
Thanks for all of the wonderful people in your life and your jobs and having a roof over your head and all those other things that we in America tend to take for granted that many people in other parts of the world do not have. All right. I don’t want to make this too sad. Uh, this week I’m going to do things a little bit differently. I’m not going to talk about news and rumors on camera bodies, lenses and all that stuff. I’ve no, I’ve done quite a bit of that stuff over the last few weeks and I’m just trying to keep my listeners up to date on the current technological trends and what is on the horizon from all of the major manufacturers. Now, I did also want to share with my listeners. I did receive my Venus optics, Lao, a 17 millimeter [inaudible] zero D landscape lens for my GFX 50 our medium format camera, and I’ve had a bout a week to play around with it and I must say I really love that lens.
It is a fantastic lens. Now, as I mentioned in the previous episode, when I was talking about that lens, it is a manual only lens. There are no electronics in it of any kind. And as a matter of fact, I think in last week’s episode I screwed up and said it didn’t have any optics of any kind. I meant to say electronics. Uh, so what does it completely manual lens? It’s a little bit different for me because for some reason they made the focus ring turn in the opposite direction of lenses to go to infinity. You have to spin it to the right age or looking down on the lens instead of to the left. Do you get to infinity on the focus? Uh, and then of course it has a manual apertural ring as well. And since I use it primarily for landscape style photos for my forgotten pieces of Georgia, I generally keep the lens at F eight to keep everything in the scene in focus.
I’m not looking for shallow depth the field when I shoot this project. Now I have posted some of the images I’ve taken so far with that lens on the Liam photography Facebook page and I’ll probably put some of them in the Liam photography podcast Facebook group as well. If you’d like to check them out. It is a fantastic lens. It was less than half the price of the Fujinon 23 millimeters, which is, as I said before, 18 millimeter full frame equivalent. The allow a zero D 17 millimeter is a 13.5 millimeter full frame equivalent. So I’m getting four and a half millimeters wider with this venous optics allow a lens and I absolutely love, but it’s not super heavy and it’s kinda long. Um, which threw me a little bit at first and then I got [inaudible], I think I got looking at my other, you know, super wide angle lenses in my 10 and 17 to 40 is actually a fairly long lens, um, as far as barrel length.
And so is my Rokinon 14 millimeter F 2.8 manual only lens. So I guess it’s not bad on par in comparison with those lenses and all three lenses. Give me fantastic images. So I’m very happy. Alright, now on to this week’s topic, I wanted to talk to my listeners about straight photography. Now. Sure. That probably makes a lot of you nervous. Uh, when you hear about street photography, it’s actually a genre of photography that I love to shoot. And back when I was working for one of the local web hosting companies in downtown Atlanta, I’m not gonna mention their names cause I don’t know, I want to get myself in trouble. Not that I’m going to say anything bad about them, but, um, I worked for the same company for about five years in downtown Atlanta and at the time I was living on the East side of Atlanta in Gwinnett County in Loganville.
Um, and if you know anything about Atlanta traffic, it sucks. It royally sucks. I mean, you’re talking [inaudible] and it was like 30 miles from my house in Loganville to the office in Atlanta. And if I drove it in my car, it could take an hour and a half, two hours with rush hour traffic both ways, both to work and from work, which really sucks. So I started taking the Gwinnette County express and buses, transit buses instead, and that way I could chill out on the bus or take a cat nap or whatever and just let somebody else do the driving. I’d get off at a Martin Luther King federal building and then walk 10 blocks to my, and I’d be at work. So what I would do is most of the time, most of the five years that I worked there, I carried one of my DSLRs with me every day because as I said, I love to shoot street photography.
Now, street photography is different than standard portrait photography. A lot of times if you’re shooting street, you’re still shooting people, but you’re not shooting a standard portrait. You’re not doing posed portrait sessions, so you’re not using a long lens like you generally would for portraits. A lot of people for portraits are using 85 millimeters or 105 I know the Nikon people love 105 or the one 35 that Canon makes a because you’re not looking for the shallow depth. The field, when you’re doing street photography, you want more of the street environment that surrounds the person that you’re photographing. So generally for street photography, you’re going to want to use a wider lens. Now you don’t want to go super wide. I mean you can, but it kind of defeats the purpose because you want your subject to be more in the frame. You don’t want them absolutely filling the frame, but you also don’t want them the size of a grain of rice in the background either.
That’s why generally for street photography, most photographers they shoot street will recommend like 35 millimeter lens or a 40 millimeter or 50 millimeter. Those are the three most popular focal lengths for street photography. Now, I know like I said a moment ago, many new photographers cringe at the thought of shooting straight. But if you’re a photography student, especially that, I’m sure you’ve had a professor or three now you that you need to learn to start shooting outside your comfort zone. So in other words, if you’re somebody who likes to shoot motocross or baseball or football or something like that, try street photography as something different. You don’t want to get yourself in a creative rut. And I am including images that I shot doing street photography, um, that I have included in a blog post that I wrote in October 31st, 2016 for both my website and my colleges ambassadors website blog site.
And uh, so I’m going to include the link to that article from my site in the show notes for this episode so that you can check out the images for yourself. Now the first image I had that accompanies my blog post from 2016 is of a young college student who’s actually taking a nap on the steps as Centennial Olympic park in downtown Atlanta. Now, this one was really easy for me to capture because the company I worked for was in a building that was literally literally just like two or three blocks up the street from Centennial Olympic park. Now if you’re not from Atlanta or you’ve never been to Atlanta, you might not know what Centennial Olympic park is. It is a park that was developed and designed and built when Atlanta was hosting the summer Olympics in 1996, uh, when the bombing happened, I’m sure most of you remember that and I know clinics would, has a new movie that he directed coming out that’s based on those events and the person that was accused of carrying out that attack, that’s going to be in theaters soon.
But anyways, I captured this a student, he was a college student and he was taking a bit of a nap I guess before class cause it was first thing in the morning. It was like 8:00 AM and he was sitting on the top step and he had his head down and he was actually sleeping. He wasn’t praying or anything like that. He actually fell asleep because while I was snapping his picture, he started snoring. So I know I wasn’t praying, but uh, I love the image. Now when I do street photography and this is my personal taste, may, it might not be yours. I know some other photographers like to do the same thing. I like to do street photography and black and white just because I think it’s more dramatic and draws the viewer in more. You get more contrast. Um, I just think it overall looks better to do street photography in black and white rather than color.
Now that may not be your choice. Maybe you prefer to shoot straight in color. I don’t need to get a bunch of hate mail about it. If you want to shoot street photography and color, that’s perfectly fine. I’m just saying myself and I know a lot of other photographers that shoot street, we all tend to prefer to do the images in black and white. Now, street photography doesn’t have to be scary and there are some tips that I’m going to share with you this week to hopefully make you more successful at it. The key to doing street photography is being fairly discreet. You don’t want to be out there with your biggest, longest telephoto lens trying to avoid human contact because you will make your subjects nervous. Or if you’re running around with a big telephoto lens, people if thinking you’re up to something or they think you’re just a creepy, sleazy kind of person and you’re not going to get over your nervousness about doing street photography.
If you’re photographing everybody from 600 yards away with a super telephoto lens. Now, as I mentioned a moment ago, your best bet is to take your camera body and a prime lens like a 35 or 50 millimeter. And the reason for that is you’ll not only get better image quality from a prime lens. Now, don’t get me wrong and don’t start flaming me about the latest innovations and telephoto lenses. You know the latest 70 to 202.8 made by whoever. It doesn’t matter how good a zoom lens get. They are still never, ever, ever going to be good as a prime lens. And that’s because the prime lens doesn’t have all the additional moving parts. It doesn’t have, you know, the chain of the shift in focal length. It doesn’t have all the extra glass elements. Now, don’t get me wrong, prime lenses do have more than one element, but you know, some of your telephoto lenses have 20 elements in them and five or six different groups and you’re just not going to get the same kind of image quality with even the most expensive telephoto lens as you will with one of the least expensive prime lenses.
And I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I’m being totally honest with you. If you were to take say the 24 to 70 F 2.8 from any manufacturer, I don’t care if it’s Canon camera on Sigma, Nikon, Sony, it doesn’t matter if you know anything about the 24 to 70 it’s an extremely popular medium telephoto lens. A lot of people like to use it, especially for videography, but it’s also an expensive lens and it’s a very heavy lens and you’re still not going to get the same quality in a street photography image with that lens. Even if you set it to 50 millimeters or 35 millimeters, you’re not going to get as good an image as you would from say the Canon or Nikon 50 millimeter 1.8 nifty fifties which are fairly inexpensive lenses. I mean the Canon and Nikon ones, I think both sell like 100 bucks, 130 bucks, something like that.
They will give you a better image than that. Much more expensive, 24 to 72.8 at 50 millimeters. It’s just the nature of the beast. So as I mentioned, you want to take your camera body and one of those prime lenses, 35 40 50 millimeters, any of the three will do nicely. And if you remember in last week’s episode, I mentioned that there was currently a black Friday sale that had started actually before this week, uh, where you could save money on the two cannon stubby little pancake lenses, the 24 millimeter, uh, EFS lens 2.8 or the F 40 millimeterF 2.8. They’re both STM lenses with the silence stepper motor. So you can always pick up that 40 millimeter and use it to do street photography. And you’re not going to spend a whole lot of money while it’s on sale. It’s $149. That’s a great price for an F 2.8 fast prime lens.
That’s super quiet. Now again, as I mentioned a moment ago, you’re going to want to use one of these focal lengths and a prime lens, and that means you’re going to have to get closer to your subjects. And this is where you can start shedding your nervousness. Uh, you know, your fear of being around other people or around strangers in public because you’re going to have to get closer to your subjects. Now don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. I’m not saying that by any means, but with a prime lens, like a 35 or a 50, you’re going to have to get much closer to your subjects to get a good shot. And that’s an opportunity to maybe confer, converse with them if they’re not hustling on the street at 90 miles an hour, like they’ve got a motor to their rear end and you might be able to strike up a quick conversation with them.
And they’re probably nervous too because they don’t know why you’re taking their pictures. They’re going about their day on the street. So it’s an opportunity to strike up a conversation and maybe make a new friend. Now, don’t be surprised, and I’ve had this happen to me before where a random stranger on the street will see me doing street photography and they’ll walk up to me and ask me if I would shoot their portrait. And they’re not asking for a free brand or anything like that. They just want to be included in my street photography. I’ve actually had a few people do that for uh, to me while I was on a shooting a street photography. Now, another piece of advice, don’t take a flash with you or anything else that will be intrusive or invasive to your subjects for street photography, you want to be a minimalist. And the next image in my article is the image of a woman texting on her phone and I shot it while I was waiting at the bus stop at the Martin Luther King jr or federal courthouse. And she was directly across the street walking by a small grocery store and she was texting on her phone as she walked.
Now I know some of you are probably wondering, do I use a DSLR for street photography? Do I use a mirror list? It doesn’t really matter. You can use either one. Now some people will prefer to use a mirrorless camera for street photography, and the reason reasons for that are there. Most of the models are fairly small and lightweight. Now they’re not quite as small and lightweight as they were when they first came out on the market. That was the big selling point that Sony was pushing smaller, lighter, better, blah, blah, blah, and that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Over time, Sony’s bodies have tended to get larger. They’re still not as large as the DSLR, but they’re also not a small compact and light is they were a few years ago, and their lenses keep getting bigger and heavier as well because you can’t make a quality telephoto F 2.8 lens without it having some bulk and weight at least to a certain extent.
But the other reason why a mirrorless camera can be great for street photography is because most all mirrorless cameras have a silent shutter mode. So you can snap your pictures completely silent and people are going to be completely oblivious to what you’re doing. If your camera’s not making noise and there’s less chance of distracting people or you making people nervous and stuff like that, but again, you’re going to have to get closer to your subjects and probably interact with them to an extent. You could talk to them a little bit, just a quick little bit of small talk, you know, Hey, what do you think of the weather today? Yada, yada, yada, whatever the case may be, and you can even get a little bit of their story if they have the time, but don’t disrupt their day. If it’s somebody, like I said a few minutes ago that’s hustling down the street, like they got an outboard motor strapped to their Keester, then they probably don’t have time to chit chat. Just snap a quick shot on them as they go by and be on your way.
Now, if you’re someone like myself who’s fairly sociable to begin with and can build an instant rapport with most people in street photography will be much easier for you then is for others. If you don’t have this natural knack, then take it slowly. Don’t try to force the issue with your subject. Be respectful of them and their personal space. You don’t want to drastically interfere with their routine or whatever they’re doing, but you do need to interact with them enough to make the process easier. Talk to them about the weather. As I mentioned a moment ago, the local sports team, how terrible the traffic is, especially if you live in Atlanta or anything else that strikes your fancy, stay away from hot topics like politics or religion because I don’t want you getting attacked by some nut in the street. I’m just trying to look out for all of my listeners there.
Uh, and you definitely don’t want to get into a violent, uh, debate about politics or religion when you’re trying to do street photography. Now as you get more and more experienced in shooting street photography and you get to be more comfortable, you may find that you actually really enjoy shooting it. I know I did during the last few years that I worked, like I said, in downtown Atlanta and it got to be something really fun and exciting that I look forward to doing and it was especially great anytime I can incorporate any of my street photography into any of my classroom assignments while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree in photography. Now also as you become more confident, some people will actually approach you and ask to be shot as part of whatever you’re shooting for. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had this happen several times and it could be a lot of fun.
And in the final image that’s in this blog post, a gentleman by the name of Rodney asked me to take his picture. You wanted to pose for a quick street portrait. So, uh, the street we were on at the time, uh, we were at a section of the street, whether it was a lot of chain link fencing because you were walking across an overpass and the Marta trains run below that overpass. So the, of course, the chain link fence is there to keep people from falling over the side or committing suicide off the bridge, whatever the case may be. So I had that as the background. He stood in front of that fence and I snapped a quick picture, showed him what it looked like, and he was on his way and I was on my way. So you can actually have a lot of fun with street photography and you’d be surprised some of the things that you will spot if you’re out just a casual Saturday or whatever day of the week you have off from work and you just take your camera into town and walk around and shoot street.
It can be a lot of fun. But as I mentioned earlier, don’t do anything that’s going to put yourself in danger. Don’t get into any heated debates about touchy topics and it should be a fairly enjoyable experience for you. And as I said, as you do it more and more, you’re going to become more comfortable with it. You’re not going to find it scary anymore. And you may find that it’s something you like to shoot on a regular basis as something that you just do for yourself. You know, when you’re not shooting, you know, family portraits to pay the bills or whatever the case may be. You may decide that you like going out. I mean, you know when you have the free time and do a few hours of street photography just for your own gratification. It can be a lot of fun and you can get some really cool and amazing images.
Not only are the people as they go about their day, but the traffic, you know, buses and the cars and now here in Atlanta, and I have no idea why they’ve even put in a tram system, which to me is completely idiotic. I don’t know if the mayor thought we needed to be more like San Francisco or what, but so now we’ve got these tram cars running around downtown Atlanta and they’re also a company’s the new handsome cab rides around Atlanta, much like they do in New York city. So you could find some really cool things besides just people that you can photograph when you’re out. You know, just practicing some street photography or as you get better, you’re just out shooting. You know, like I said, something for yourself that you can enjoy and not be under stress because you got to meet a deadline for a client who’s paying you good money and I’ll yada, yada, yada, all that stuff.
This is something you could just do for yourself. You can slow things down. And just enjoy your photography again and you’ll discover over time that street photography is not nearly as frightening as you once thought. And I’ve actually, uh, I’ve done some little mini workshops for people that are new for Fatah to photography and I took them out to do street photography and most of them were nervous the first time going out, but that after they’d done it for a little while and they got a chance to chit chat with people on the street without disrupting their day and stuff like that, they found that they actually enjoyed and got really excited when the, anytime they had the opportunity to do street photography. And, um, when I was in some meetup groups, uh, photography groups on the East side of Atlanta when I lived over there and I, then I started my own photography club.
Uh, I did a few little mini workshops and I did them for free cause they were friends of mine, stuff like that. Um, after I took him out, you know, one or two times to do street photography, many of them really discovered that they truly enjoyed it and they started going out and doing it on their own or in little groups of two or three instead of the whole group of 25. So I think you should give it a shot. Like I said, get outside your comfort zone. Try something that you’ve never tried before and street photography can be one of those things that you can just truly enjoy. Something you can do with your camera that doesn’t feel like work, which again in turn will help you, help prevent you from getting stuck in a rut or losing that creative flair or zing or zip or whatever you want to call it that got you into photography to begin with.
A lot of people don’t realize that as you do a lot of page shooting, whether it’s family portraits, weddings, stuff like that, a lot of photographers will eventually get burned out because all they do is this stuff they get paid to do. They don’t take the time to do some stuff for themselves. And then eventually they decided they don’t want anything to do with photography anymore and their camera sits on a shelf gathering dust and they may even go back to some previous vocation of work that they did before they got into photography. You know, depending on, you know, maybe photography was the first job they ever had, who knows. But my point is you don’t want to get yourself stuck in a creative rut. You don’t want to get bored and fed up with photography because it’s just a job all the time. There’s an old saying that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life and that is absolutely true.
So don’t get burned out doing the stuff that you have to do to pay the bills, your bread and butter work. Do some stuff that’s just for you. And I think if you give it a shot, you’ll find that street photography can absolutely be one of those things that you can just do for you for the sheer fun and enjoyment and to try something absolutely different. All right. That is all I have for you this week and episode 47 of the Liam photography podcast. I want to thank all of my listeners again for subscribing, rating and reviewing and iTunes, Pandora, radio.com Stitcher, Spotify, anywhere else you might be listening to this show each week and please share it out with your friends and family and social media and elsewhere. Ask them to give it a listen, subscribe and do a write and review if they feel so inclined.
Now also keep in mind that there is a phone number that you can call and leave a voicemail or you can send a text message to the show. That number is area code (470) 294-8191 you can feel free to call when you have a comment about an episode or you can leave a suggestion for an episode or a question you might have that’s related to photography and I will probably be able to address it on the following week’s episode. You could also shoot an email to William at Liam photography, podcast.com. Be sure to also join the Facebook group. We in photography podcast, Facebook group. It is a closed group, but it’s easy to join. You submit a request to join. You do have to fill out one question and that is what is the of the host of the show. And you can put Liam or Liam Douglas, either one will work and you’ll be in.
And I do that to keep the bots and the spammers out cause nobody likes those. And Facebook groups, they get really annoying. Uh, once you’re in the group, you’re free to share, upload up to five photos per day. You can either do them all at once or upload one every few hours throughout the course of a 24 hour period. Either one is perfectly fine. Um, please only share your own original work. I don’t care if you have permission from somebody else to share their photos in the podcast Facebook group, please do not do it. I only want the members to post their own original work. And you don’t have to be somebody that’s a serious photographer with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, a crop body, a full frame, micro, four thirds, medium format. It doesn’t matter. You can post your pictures even if you just shoot them with your smartphone or tablet, it doesn’t matter. Feel free to upload them to the Facebook group, and if you are somebody that’s into photography or as a hobbyist or you’re aspiring to be a pro, don’t be afraid to ask for creative criticism by marking your post. Would CC please and myself or one of the other professional photographers would be happy to look at your images and give you some positive feedback, things you can do to improve your photography and up your game. All right, I’m going to go ahead and sign off and I will see you again next week for Episode 48